Smart Grid and Renewable Energy, 2012, 3, 204-206 Published Online August 2012 (
Feasibility Study for a Solar-Energy Stand-Alone System:
Hussein Abdel-Aal1*, Mohamed Bassyouni1,2, Maha Abdelkreem1, Shereen Abdel-Hamid1,
Khaled Zohdy1
1Department of Chemical Engineering, Higher Technological Institute, Tenth of Ramadan City, Egypt; 2Department of Chemical and
Materials Engineering, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, KSA.
Email: *
Received April 1st, 2012; revised June 4th, 2012; accepted June 11th, 2012
The present study is aimed to serve a small community living on Stand-Alone Solar-Energy (S.A.S.E.S.) system. As a
basis for the study 1 cubic meter of hydrogen is to be produced by electrolysis in 5 hrs that requires energy input of 5
KW-hr. The proposed system consists of the following main components: photovoltaic module, water electrolyzer and
fuel cell. Solar hydrogen production by water electrolysis is described and design parameters are specified. Economic
feasibility of the proposed system is evaluated. The projected cost of hydrogen is calculated an d found to be 5 cents/ft3.
Keywords: Hydrogen; Solar Energy; Electrolysis; Fuel Cell
1. Introduction
The sun blasts Earth with enough energy in one hour: 4.3
× 1020 joules to provide all of humanity’s energy needs
for a year (4.1 × 1020 joules). Solar energy provides
electricity via photovoltaic cells. Sunlight reaching the
land surface of our planet can produce the equivalence of
1600 times the total energy consumption of the world;
the amount of solar energy derived from the sun’s radia-
tion on just one square kilometer is about 4000 mega-
watts, enough to light a small town .
With the eventual exhaustion of conventional fuel re-
sources and the aggravation of environmental damage
caused by the use of fuel combustion procedures, the use
of hydrogen as an energy source and the development of
hydrogen energetics is increasingly the major focus of
many research laboratories working in the energy sector.
To have a Solar-Energy Stand-Alone System (S.E.S.A.S.)
that provides power around the clock for a community;
solar hydrogen is proposed. Solar hydrogen is simply
produced by the electrolysis of water using solar energy
(photo-electrolytical); one of the promising options of
renewable energy sources as illustrated in Figure 1.
2. Solar Hydrogen Production by Electrolysis
Hydrogen , the cleanest en ergy storage in the Universe, is
most of the time associated with high costs, although it is
extracted from water, which is the cheapest yet the most
precious element to life BTU.
Electrolysis is one of the acknowledged means of gen-
erating chemical products from their native state [1,2]. In
other words, make hydrogen while the sun shines; once
produced the stored hydrogen will play a key role in the
Solar-Energy Stand-Alone System.
Depending on the fraction of hydrogen produced by
electrolysis (values can be up to 85%), the amount of
electricity required based on electrolysis efficiency of
100%, would require close to 40 kWh per kilogram of
hydrogen—a number derived from the higher heating
value of hydrogen, a physical property. However, today’s
systems have an efficiency of about 60% - 70%, with the
Doe’s future target at 75%. This can boost the amount of
energy required to produce one kilogram of hydrogen
from 40 kWh to more than 50 kWh.
The cost of hydrogen production is an important issue.
For comparison hydrogen produced by steam reforming
co sts approximatel y three times the cost of natu ral gas per
unit of energy produced. This means that if natural gas
costs $6/million BTU, then hydrogen will be $18/million
BTU. While more expensive than steam reforming of nat-
ural gas, electrolysis may play an important role in the
transition to a hydrogen economy because small facilities
can be built at existing service stations. In addition, elec-
trolysis is well matched to intermittent renewable tech-
nologies. Finally, electrolyzers can allow distributed pow-
er systems to manage power during peak.
*Corresponding a uthor.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. SGRE
Feasibility Study for a Solar-Energy Stand-Alone System: (S.E.S.A.S.) 205
Figure 1. Hydrogen production us ing solar energy (photo-electrilyical).
Producing hydrogen from electrolysis with electricity
at 5 cents/kWh will cost $28/million BTU—slightly less
than two times the cost of hydrogen from natural gas.
Note that the cost of hydrogen production from electricity
is a linear function of electricity costs, so electricity at 10
cents/kWh means that hydrogen will cost $56/million
3. Description of Proposed System
The system is schematically outlined as given as shown
next in Figure 2. The main components are:
1) Photovoltaic modules.
2) Water electrolyzer.
3) Fuel cell.
The following features are typical for the proposed
1) Electricity provided by the P.V. Cells is utilized for
day time.
2) Electricity provided by the Fuel Cells is utilized for
night time.
3) Fuel cells produce water as a by-product.
4) O2 produced in water electrolysis could be utilized,
instead of air, in the chemical reaction taking place in the
fuel cell, illustrated in Figure 3.
The merits of our multi-purpose system are summa-
rized as follows:
1) Supply of electricity for day use.
2) Supply of electricity for night use.
3) Availability of Hydrogen gas for energy generation
using fuel cells.
4) Supply of fresh water as a by-product from the fuel
5) Supply of heat source as a by-product from the fuel
6) The use of the generated electricity to electrolyze sea-
water to produce Hydrogen plus Sodium hypo-chlorite.
Figure 2. Schematic prese ntation for S.E.S.A.S.
Figure 3. Function of a typical fuel cell.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. SGRE
Feasibility Study for a Solar-Energy Stand-Alone System: (S.E.S.A.S.)
The barrier to lowering the price of high purity hydro-
gen is the fact that it must use far more than 35 kWh of
electricity to generate one kg of hydr ogen gas. It takes 60
kWh to make the hydrogen itself, that’s a cost of $6.00
per kg if electric power cost is 10 cents per kWh.
4. Design Parameters
The proposed study is aimed to serve a small community
living on Stand-Alone Solar-Energy System (S.A.S.E.S.)
[3]. As a basis for the study 1 cubic meter of hydrogen is
produced by electrolysis in 5 hrs and requires energy
input of 5 KW-hr.
The following are the main parameters underlying the
1) 2 photovoltaic modules, each is 1000 Watt (1 KW)
are to be constructed.
2) One module will be used to supply electricity for
day use; while the other will supply power to the hydro-
gen electrolyzer.
3) A 1000 Watt electrolyzer is used.
4) 1 cubic meter of hydrogen is equivalent to 3 KW-hr
(thermally). For practical calculations, 5 KW-hr will be
used instead of 3.
5) In one hour, 1 KW electrolyzer receives energy of
1KW-hr to produce 1/5 cubic meter of hydrogen and 1/2
this quantity of oxygen.
6) Hydrogen output will be = 7 cubic feet/hr (35.3
ft3/m3), as illustrated by reference [4].
7) The average annual sunshine hours for countries in
the Middle East = 2500 hrs, as reported by the authors
5. Economic Feasibility of the Project
To judge the econo mic feasibility of a project, on e has to
estimate first the capital investment and the operating
costs. Next a life time of the equipment is assumed. Fi-
nally the production costs $/unit is figured out and com-
pared with the curren t production cost of a product.
To come up with a preliminary cost for the produced
hydrogen we will concern ourselves with the cost analy-
sis for the electrolysis unit only. The following calcula-
tions are presented:
1) The annual production rate of hydrogen from elec-
trolyzer =7 (ft3/hr) × 2500 (hr/y) = 17,500 ft3.
2) The capital cost of one photovoltaic module + elec-
trolyzer = $1500 + $2500 = $4000.
3) Assuming a life time of the equipment = 10 years.
4) Annual depreciation costs = $4000/10 = $400.
5) Annual operating & maintenance costs (10% of
fixed capital costs) = 0.1 ×$4000 = $400.
6) The annual total cost of hydrogen production = de-
preciation cost of equipment + operating and mainte-
ance costs = $400 + $400 = $800. n
7) Costs of hydrogen production= $800/(17,500 ft3)= 5
The cost of electricity produced by the second photo-
voltaic module is figured out as follows:
1) A 1000 Watt will produce energy in one year equiva-
lent = 1000 Watt × 2500 hr = 2500 KW-hr.
2) The price of a 1000 Watt photovoltaic module is $1500.
The re f ore c os t o f e l ec tr i ci t y= ($1500)/(10 y)/(2500 KW-hr/y)
= 6 cents per one KW-hr.
6. Discussions and Conclusions
The system presented in this paper offers a practical and
simple mode for harnessing the sun to provide energy for
a small community. Solar energy is regarded by many as
the only ideal energy source especially for countries in
the middle east located around the so called “solar belt”.
Coupling solar energy with hydrogen production along
with fuel cells is the main feature of the S.E.S.A.S.
Electrolysis on the other hand is presently the most
practical generation method, and offers the greatest
promise of meeting required capital and operating cost
objectives without requ iring a major technological break-
through [6].
Cost analysis and feasibility study indicate that the
system would be more attractive for scale-up production.
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[4] W. Pyle, J. Healyand and R. Cortez, “Solar Hydrogen
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[5] H. Abdel-Aal, M. Bassyouni, S. M.-S. Abdel-Hamid and
M. Abdelkreem, “Resources of Fossil and Non-Fossil Hy-
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[6] H. K. Abdel-Aal, K. M. Zohdy and M. Abdel Kareem,
“Hydrogen Production Using Sea Water Electrolysis,”
The Open Fuel Cells Journal, Vol. 3, 2010, pp. 1-7.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. SGRE